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The Big Q

A dialogue on the big questions college students face. Like The Big Q now on Facebook to stay updated on the latest post and winners.

  •  Home Sweet Home

    Friday, Jun. 21, 2013

    The best student comment on "Home Sweet Home" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, July 7th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

    After a long, tough finals week, Sophia has completed her freshman year of college. She can’t believe how fast the year went. She made many new friends and experienced the freedom of independence, living away from her parents for the first time in her life. Now, it’s summer break, and Sophia is returning home to work for a local restaurant. All she wants to do during break is work, go to the gym, and hang out with her old high school friends.

    Sophia’s parents are very strict and like to know where she is at all times. They also enjoy having her at home to spend time with the family, and stress the importance of academics and getting good grades. In high school, Sophia often had to stay home at nights when her friends were getting together. When Sophia was allowed out, she had to return home before her parents went to bed at midnight.

    Sophia has gotten used to the freedom of college, however. She’s 19 now, after all. She enjoys being spontaneous, making her own choices, not having to report her coordinates to her parents at all times, and staying out late. That being said, she has still been able to maintain over a 3.7 cumulative GPA in her first year at college.

    Several days after returning home for break, Sophia’s best friend from high school decides to host a reunion party. Sophia works from 10am to 4pm at the restaurant, heads to the gym, and makes it home in time for dinner at 6pm.

    At the dinner table, Sophia tells her parents she is going to the reunion party in a couple of hours. While Sophia loves to be spontaneous, her parents love to schedule out their plans well ahead of time. They inform Sophia that they’ve planned a family night and that she needs to be home to spend time with her two younger siblings.

    Conversation turns into argument. Sophia claims she is independent now and can make her own decisions. Her parents state that while she is still living under their roof, she needs to listen to their judgment. They stress they are not being the “fun police,” but are emphasizing family values. If Sophia would have told them ahead of time, they claim they would have let her go. 

    Sophia pretends to go to bed upset and sneaks out to go to the party.

    Should Sophia have snuck out to go to the party? Have you ever snuck out from home? Is Sophia independent? Should she be able to make her own decisions at home? Is it fair for Sophia’s parents to ask her to plan ahead of time, or should she be allowed to continue her spontaneous nature? Is there a point of compromise?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Social Intelligence: Returning Home from College for the Summer

     

  •  Congratulations Graduates!

    Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2013

     The Big Q sends best wishes to all students who graduated in 2013 and wishes a great summer to everyone who will be returning to school in the fall.  We will be taking a week off, but will be back with more contests and cases soon.

  •  One Fish, Two Fish

    Monday, Jun. 3, 2013
    The best student comment on "One Fish, Two Fish" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, June 16th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     
    College freshmen Josh and David live together in an on-campus dorm. They share a communal bathroom with two other students. Halfway through the school year, Josh begins to notice that David takes unusually long showers. With each passing week, David’s showers have increased to 45 minutes each and every day.
    Josh knows that running water ultimately goes down the drain and into the sewers. Of course, everyone just assumes there will be more available the next day. However, Josh realizes that David is consuming huge amounts of water as well as enormous amounts of energy.
     
    Bothered by David’s actions, Josh talks to David and calmly points out that his water and energy consumption is not good for the environment, as well as being extremely expensive. David, however, doesn’t see it that way and replies with, “Whatever. I just pay for room and board. I don’t pay for the utilities. That shouldn’t be my problem.”
     
    This is a common problem among college students living in dorms. Since the bills don’t go directly to students, it is easy for them to lose track of how much they are actually using and assume that water and energy are unlimited resources. If David actually saw how much water he was using and paid the bill himself, he might think differently and be inclined to reduce his water consumption.  But because he pays only a flat rate for room and board, he feels it is not his concern and that he can use as much energy as he likes without a second thought.
     
    How can a university encourage students like David to be more environmentally conscious of their water consumption when students do not pay for utilities directly? How can students hold each other accountable for being responsible about their individual water and energy consumption? What incentives could there be for students to care about how much water and energy they use other than the fact that it can cost more money?
     
    Useful Links:
     
     
     
     
     
    Photo available under a Creative Commons License on Flickr from Joost Nelissen.
  •  Making the Cut

    Monday, May. 20, 2013

    The best student comment on "Making the Cut" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, June 2nd, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

    Patrick and Lindsey are best friends, and as their senior year of high school begins, they are anxious to look at colleges and begin the application process. Patrick has always been an athlete: while he tries hard in school, his main focus has always been becoming captain of the football team, which results in his grades being below average. On the other hand, Lindsey is a straight-A student who consistently takes AP and Honors courses, is student body president, and has an impressive list of a variety of extracurricular actives.

    The academic disparity between Patrick and Lindsey has never caused an issue with their friendship in the past, but in applying to colleges Lindsey seems to think she has an advantage and will not stop bragging about what great schools she will be accepted to. As the year progresses, Lindsey submits many college applications, including some to the top universities in the country, and spends many grueling hours a week perfecting each application and essay. On the other hand, Patrick has yet to submit any applications despite the deadlines approaching, because he is too busy practicing his football skills, going to the gym, and visiting the trainer before and after school. Lindsey reminds Patrick of how difficult the applicant pool will be this year and advises Patrick to start on his applications, particularly because he is already at a disadvantage with a low GPA.

    Several days later, Patrick and Lindsey’s high school has a football game against their biggest rival. The stadium is filled, and scouts are scattered among the bleachers. Patrick makes one amazing play after another and leads the team to victory. Several days later Patrick receives a recruiting call from one of the top colleges Lindsey has applied to, and he is offered a full ride scholarship to play college football. Thrilled, Patrick verbally commits and plans are made to sign the official papers.

    Being a good friend, Lindsey is happy for Patrick, but can't help feeling anxious about her own college prospects. Later that week, Lindsey receives multiple denial letters, one of which is from the college Patrick has just committed to, and Lindsey is now overcome with resentment.

    Should athletes (such as Patrick) be held to the same academic standards of the general applicant pool (which Lindsey was part of)? Is it possible or even realistic for athletes to take advanced courses and put as much time into studying for school as non-athletes when athletes have practices, games, travel, and tournaments? Should the practice and dedication Patrick put into football be considered equivalent to Lindsey’s efforts in the classroom?

    Useful Resources

    Grading College Athletes 

    College Athletes: Academic Performance: Behind the Line on Grades

    College Athletics: Necessary, Not Just Nice to Have

     

    Photo by Jamie Williams available under a Creative Commons license.
     
  •  Insta-Interruption

    Thursday, May. 9, 2013
    The best student comment on "Insta-Interruption" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, May 19th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 
     
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     
    Beth and Katie have been friends throughout college, but their busy schedules have kept them from spending a lot of quality time together recently. They finally find a time to meet for lunch, and both girls are excited to catch up.
     
    When their food arrives, Katie exclaims, “Oh, this looks so good—I have to Instagram this!” Beth laughs and checks her Facebook notifications while her friend takes a picture and chooses just the right filter. Together, they deliberate over which hashtags perfectly encapsulate the finished creation, and Beth finally posts it 10 minutes later. They both put their phones down and continue their conversation, but Katie keeps receiving comments and “likes” on the Instagram picture of their lunch, so she keeps checking her phone. Beth gets a text from a classmate about a group project, and she spends about 5 minutes texting back and forth to schedule a meeting time for later in the evening. The dialogue between the two women is, therefore, sprinkled with long pauses as they get distracted by their devices.
     
    At the end of their lunch, Beth and Katie hug each other and promise to see each other again soon. On the way to her car, Beth stops to take a picture of a rose that she sees so that she can Instagram it later, and Katie tags Beth in a Facebook status: “Love catching up with old friends in the sunshine!”
     
    Does this sound familiar to you? Do you interrupt your face-to-face interactions with social media platforms or text messages to people who aren’t there? Do your friends do that to you? Do you think that these kinds of interactions negatively affect friendships, or are they just a natural part of an increasingly technology-dependent society? Do you feel the need to report on everything you’re doing during the day via social media? Do you think this enhances or devalues friendships?
     
     
    Useful Resources
     
     
     
     

      

  •  A Tale of Two Cheaters

    Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2013
    The best student comment on "A Tale of Two Cheaters" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, May 5th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 
     
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     
    Rebecca is a freshman this year, and the transition from high school to college has been pretty academically difficult for her. She has always been an excellent student, however, so she takes the challenge in stride.
     
    After turning in a final paper for one of her English classes, Rebecca receives an e-mail from her professor informing her that she has failed the class. Rebecca can’t believe it—perhaps she put less effort into this paper than her others, but she certainly didn’t produce F-quality work! She immediately responds and asks why. Her professor informs Rebecca that she had included a paragraph in her paper that was copied and pasted verbatim from an online source, and that Rebecca had failed to provide a citation. The professor then refers Rebecca to the section on academic integrity in the course syllabus, which clearly states that any student found plagiarizing will fail the course.
     
    At the same university that week, Nick wraps up his first round of sophomore year exams. He’s thrilled to be heading home for break after an extremely tough quarter, and is pretty happy with his grades as they begin showing up online. However, he notices he received a C in a class that he was expecting a solid A in, and e-mails his professor to ask why. His professor responds that she found several instances of plagiarism in his final paper, so he failed his final assignment, and that affected his final grade. She also notes that this is consistent with her policy on academic integrity as stated in her syllabus.
     
    Ultimately, for similar acts of plagiarism at the same school, Rebecca and Nick suffer very different consequences. Rebecca fails a course, while Nick fails a final paper. Is this fair?  Should schools force faculty to have the same policy about plagiarism across the board, or should it be up to the faculty’s discretion?  What would be a fair punishment?
     
    Useful Resources
     
     
     

        

  •  Time is of the Essence

    Monday, Apr. 8, 2013
    The best student comment on "Time is of the Essence" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, April 21st, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 
     
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     
    Stephanie is wrapping up her junior year of college and beginning her search for a summer job. Stephanie has great grades, previous work experience, and considers herself to be charismatic and articulate in interviews. On paper and in person, she would be a great employee!
     
    However, there’s one big problem. Stephanie does not go to school in her home state, and since summer break only lasts three months, she (like many other out-of-state college students) needs to find an employer who will hire her despite the fact that she will be returning to school in the fall.
     
    After months of searching, Stephanie finds a dream job working as an Outreach Intern for a local non-profit, applies, and is asked to interview. The interview goes extremely well, and Stephanie is hired on the spot! As she is considering the offer, she notices that the organization uncompromisingly requires interns to work for a minimum of 6 months. She knows that she will be leaving the state to go back to school in the fall, so she either has to settle for a minimum-wage job that won’t build her resume (something that will be crucial when she graduates in a years’ time), or she has to lie by omission to this employer.
     
     In this job market, Stephanie’s find is rare and a perfect jumping off point for her future career. Her parents tell her that this is too good of an opportunity to pass up, and that a little white lie will do more good than harm. Stephanie is inclined to agree as she sees her classmates struggling to find work, and she rationalizes that as soon as she has to leave, an equally deserving candidate could be hired to fill her place.
     
    What should Stephanie do? Should she turn down the offer that she worked so hard to get and clearly deserves, but remain fully honest in doing so? Or, should she imply that she can work for the required 6 months, but simply tell her boss that she is quitting when she has to go back to school?
     
     
     
    Useful Resources
     
     
     
  •  Can You Keep a Secret?

    Monday, Mar. 25, 2013
    The best student comment on "Can You Keep a Secret?" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, April 7, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     

    Scott couldn’t believe his eyes when he checked Facebook this morning. A new page, “SCU Confessions,” had just been created, and one of the first “confessions” was about him! Someone shared a story where he had gotten really drunk last week and did a few things he wasn’t proud of. Granted, he wasn’t mentioned by name, but it was a unique enough situation that everyone he knew would recognize it as being about him.

    Scott had heard about other schools starting pages like this, where people message the page administrator their secrets, hook-up stories, dirty deeds, and anything else that they would want to share anonymously. Scott initially thought these pages were hilarious, and even “liked” the ones from other schools just so that he could be entertained. However, now that he was reading something about him, he felt embarrassed and upset. Already it had 50 “likes” and counting, and several of his friends tagged him in the comments so that he would see it. To make matters worse, the post was anonymous, so he had no way of knowing who was spreading the story around.

    Scott’s friends told him to laugh it off; it wasn’t that big of a deal. Even he had to admit that the story was objectively pretty funny, and most of the other posts on the page were relatively harmless as well. On the other hand, he could envision how people would take advantage of the anonymity and could potentially cause somebody real harm.

    What do you think about Facebook college “Confessions” or “Hook-Up” pages? Do you feel like this type of anonymous sharing can be hurtful and even dangerous, or do you think it’s a harmless way to tell funny stories? Have you ever submitted anything to a page like this, or been mentioned in a post?

     

  •  Picking Up the Slack

    Monday, Mar. 11, 2013
    The best student comment on "Picking Up the Slack" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, March 24, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 
     
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     
    Greg and Natalie have been in business classes together since freshman year. While they’re not close friends, they have always enjoyed each other’s company in class and have been in the same social circle as they’ve moved from lower division courses to where they are now: senior capstone. Greg and a few of his friends invite Natalie to join their group at the start of the term, and they begin to work on their project.
     
    Fairly quickly, though, Greg realizes that Natalie isn’t pulling her weight. Any aspect of the project that’s assigned to her has to be redone by other members of the group, she doesn’t pay attention in meetings, and she consistently shows up late or hung over. Greg and his other groupmates think that Natalie needs to step it up and take this project seriously, but they ultimately agree it would be more trouble than it’s worth to confront her about it. They decide to just push through and let her do her own thing. Natalie continues to participate marginally in discussions, planning, and writing, but makes it clear through her actions that their final presentation is not her biggest priority. 
     
    After Greg’s group gives its final presentation, the members are asked to write an evaluation on their teammates that the professor will use to determine individual grades. When it comes to most of his teammates, Greg easily gives them all A’s and B’s for their participation and contributions to the project. However, when Greg comes to Natalie’s evaluation, he is faced with a dilemma.  It’s their last big project before graduation, and if he were to evaluate her in a harsh way, it could negatively affect her cumulative GPA. He doesn’t want to throw her under the bus; however, her apathy and poor work ethic put a huge burden on everyone else’s shoulders, and Greg had to personally sacrifice a lot of time and effort to make up for her mistakes or tasks that she left undone.
     
    Is it worth giving her an honest evaluation, just so the professor will give her the grade she deserves? Or is giving her a bad evaluation petty and unnecessary, considering that they are all about to graduate and their group received an A, regardless of her performance?
     
     
     
    Useful Resources
     
     
     
     
     
  •  Hackworth Fellow: Patrick Coutermarsh

    Friday, Mar. 1, 2013

    Patrick is a senior at SCU working toward a double degree in Economics and Philosophy. He is currently a Hackworth Fellow at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, founded and captained SCU's first Ethics Bowl team, and writes for the Center's new blog "Business Ethics in the News." Outside of school, Patrick competes in triathlons and martial arts competitions.